Update From ERFA President, Alan Kersh

As you know, ERFA was successful in its years-long effort to secure rezoning for this neighborhood to protect it from out-of-scale development.  As we reported in early December, despite this victory we believed that Gamma Real Estate would continue its efforts to develop the 58th Street site (at 430 East 58th) according to its original plans with an appeal to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA).  That is exactly what is happening.

I’m writing to tell you that the fight is not over, to brief you on what ERFA is doing, and how you can help.

 

Status update

When the zoning law was changed on November 30th, the 430 East 58th Street site came under that new law.  Gamma Real Estate’s construction permit automatically lapsed because the building plan that Gamma had submitted to the NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) for approval did not comport with the new zoning. Accordingly, the DOB immediately issued a Stop Work Order (SWO) for construction at that site. The net result:  the new applicable law means that Gamma could not move forward with construction of the supertall tower it had planned unless and until it receives approval from the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA).

ERFA has learned that Gamma has filed an appeal with BSA. Because Gamma had commenced construction of the building’s foundation before the new zoning law was adopted, it is eligible to seek “grandfather” status for the project – i.e., the right to construct a building in accordance with the plans it submitted to DOB before the zoning change.  While we do not yet know the details of Gamma’s presentation, we are aware that in considering such applications for grandfathering one of the main factors BSA considers is whether “substantial progress” was made on the foundation prior to the zoning change.  ERFA expects that the amount of work that was done on the foundation prior to November 30th (not after that date) will be an important focus for BSA.

ERFA was surprised to learn last week that despite the zoning change the DOB has partially rescinded its SWO and has given Gamma permission to perform additional work on the 58th Street building’s foundation.  In response to questions, DOB explained to Councilmember Ben Kallos that the additional work was authorized in order to stabilize the buildings next to the construction site, but that the new foundation work was unlikely to help Gamma with its BSA appeal.

Gamma’s BSA appeal has just begun and is at a very early stage. In evaluating requests for grandfathering, BSA generally requires a great deal of information to be provided by the applicant and conducts public hearings before making a decision.  ERFA will be a very strong voice for this neighborhood in opposition to BSA approval of Gamma’s request.

 

What ERFA is doing

Construction Site: ERFA continues to question DOB why/how the new work can be justified.  DOB has said that its expects the stabilization work to take four weeks. The four-week projected timeframe seems inconsistent with public statements that Jonathan Kalikow, representing Gamma, made at the time the zoning was changed.

ERFA’s consulting engineer has viewed the site, and ERFA continues to monitor and document construction efforts. If you have pictures, please send them to info@ERFA.nyc.  Please make sure that we have the date and time of the photograph, as well as the location the photograph was taken.  These photos will help us to demonstrate the amount of work that was done on the foundation after November 30th.

BSA Appeal:  ERFA is not giving up and will fight Gamma as it goes through the process of seeking grandfather status for its construction project on East 58th Street. To that end, ERFA has hired a new legal team which specializes in BSA appeals.  At this point, the time estimate for the process is believed to be four to six months.

 

What You Can Do

ERFA will schedule a Town Hall in January to update everyone on where we are.  Come and show your continued support to fight this fight. We can also come to your building if you are interested in gathering with your neighbors.  Inquiries should go to info@erfa.nyc. We will send a notice out shortly with the date, time and location.  Stay tuned.

Keeping this fight going will take resources.  ERFA needs your financial support and will be embarking on a new fundraising campaign in the new year.  You can make a contribution, however, at any time. To donate now, please click here.

This fight can be successful only if we have your support. You’ve helped the community get this far; we need you again and to the end.

If you are affected by the continued construction on East 58th Street, contact DOB if you feel the work is outside of the permit – e.g. after hours, unsafe conditions, etc.  As always, we do not encourage spurious complaints. Use the online form or call 311.  If you call 311, please get a complaint number and send it to info@erfa.nyc.

As we approach the end of this year, and look to 2018 and to a successful end to this long hard-fought battle, we thank all of our friends across the city and neighbors closer to home for joining us in ensuring the quality of life in this neighborhood.

We knew this would be a long and hard fight.  And, we knew that if we stuck together, we would prevail.  We are – and we will.  Stay with us.  Support ERFA today.

With best wishes for the new year,

 

Alan Kersh

President, East River Fifties Alliance

 

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